10 Best Woody Allen Characters

Woody Allen's typical movie "character" is often what he seems to be in real life: a bespectacled, anemic slob who–although incredibly bright and verbal–is tortured by self-doubt. He's made lovable by his unwavering belief that he can achieve dreams like winning the love of beautiful women. However, Woody has varied that archetype frequently enough to warrant this list of the 10 Best Woody Allen Characters:

  1. "Manhattan" (1979) – Isaac. In Manhattan, Woody puts his funny guy in a realistic, urban setting we can all recognize with concerns that go beyond mere humor. Isaac is a real person and the humor comes from the situation.
  2. "Annie Hall" (1977) – Alvy Singer.  Woody plays Alvy Singer, a romantic, neurotic stand-up comic in this classic film. Alvy is a liberal New Yorker, a Jew and an intellectual and he is totally self-aware. Because of this, we root for him, making the humor strong and understandable.
  3. "Love and Death" (1975) – Boris Grushenko.  Woody–a master of verbal humor–is totally in his element as Boris Grushenko. Boris, who lives in Russia at the time of Napoleon, is shy, incompetent and totally scared to death of women. Boris works well as a character because of his sweet simplicity.
  4. "Take the Money and Run" (1969) – Virgil Starkwell.  Born loser Starkwell, a small-time thief whose every attempt at crime backfires, is a deadpan masterpiece. (He escapes prison armed with a bar of soap he's carved and painted black to look like a gun, only to have it melt in the rain.) Woody plays the role with the total seriousness that makes it hilarious.
  5. "Broadway Danny Rose" (1984) – Danny Rose.  Rose is the fast-talking promoter of "acts" like a piano-playing bird, a blind xylophonist and a has-been singer in a white tux and fake chest hair. The legendary New York agent is less like Woody than usual but he brings him completely to life.
  6. "Play It Again, Sam" (1972) – Allan Felix.  Perhaps because Woody played this role in his play on Broadway, Allan Felix is an exceptionally well-rounded character. Felix, a movie buff who thinks Humphrey Bogart advises him on making it with the ladies, is a failure with every girl he meets. He's a sweet nebbish guy we cannot help but love.
  7. "Stardust Memories" (1980) – Sandy Bates.  Bates is not a character we can love. He is Woody, stripped of his surface persona. Bates is famous and sick to death of it, tired of hearing from his fans that they miss his "early, funny films." This realism works to make the Bates character different and interesting.
  8. "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996) – Joe Berlin.  Joe is an unlucky in love writer who lives in Paris, where his French girlfriend has just dumped him. He contemplates suicide but returns to New York to be comforted by his best friends and his ex-wife. Woody's character is well-drawn and poignant, even when he sings, which everyone in the film does.
  9. "Zelig" (1983) – Leonard Zelig.  Zelig is an innocuous little man who becomes famous for miraculously changing to conform to those around him. He changes completely: attitude, behavior, and his appearance. Zelig, dubbed the "human chameleon," has few lines in the film, but is convincing as he becomes part of period films, seamlessly blending reality and fiction.
  10. "Sleeper" (1973) – Miles Monroe.  Monroe, owner of the Happy Carrot Health Food Store in Greenwich Village in the 1970s, undergoes a minor operation and wakes up two centuries later in an America that's a virtual police state. The film is mostly a string of sight gags but Woody makes the most of the gags.


Woody Allen

show comments

What Others Are Reading Right Now.